Today is Pentecost Sunday. It is considered the “Birthday” of the church. To some that might not be good news, depending on your views and thoughts about religion in general, and Christianity in particular but it is, unapologetically, a wonderful day, and one of my favorites of the Christian year. When my eldest nephew, Christopher was about three, his father came home to tell him that his baby sister, Susan, had been born. He was (and still is) a very thoughtful person, so upon hearing the news, he interrogated his Daddy (my brother John) about the whole event.
“The baby was inside of Mommy’s tummy?” Christopher asked.
“Yes,” John replied.
“The baby came out of Mommy’s tummy?” Christopher followed up his first question.
“Yes,” came the reply again.
“Boy, I sure would like to have seen that!” Christopher exclaimed.
That’s sort of the way I feel about so many of the scenes depicted in the Bible – both the Old and New Testament. That first Pentecost must have been a sight to behold and to hear. On Ascension Day (traditionally, forty days after the Resurrection; Pentecost is fifty days after the Resurrection) – when Jesus ascended into heaven in the sight of his disciples, just before his departure, he told his disciples to “wait there (Jerusalem) for the promise of the Father. ‘This is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'” He didn’t say for how long, but it turned out to be ten days. The book of The Acts of The Apostles continues the narrative that Luke began in his Gospel, and centers on the formation of the early church and the spread of Christianity. Here is the story of the first Pentecost:
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a flame rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages , as the Spirit gave them the ability.
“Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Lybia belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs – in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.’ All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’
“But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon the slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.'”
Of course the scripture goes on from , but at the close of Peter’s speech, it is written in verses 41 and 42: “So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” As I said before, “I sure would like to have seen that!” However, I have been fortunate enough to have received that blessing for myself, so in a way, I guess I have seen that! God continues to inspire and amaze with the generosity and goodness of His Grace. I will close with a poem I wrote about two years ago.
No still small voice today!
A roar that filled the room,
spilled into the square.
Another burning, a conflagration
in and of the soul.
All who did not stop their ears,
all who did not run away
were set on fire, flames rising.
Shouting above the thunder, their voices
“We are not consumed! We are alive!”
More than alive, and so to die;
more than fire, that consumes all to ash;
more than the thundering wind
of a fearsome storm on the sea;
More than the earthquake
that tore the Temple curtain.
This was the beginning,
It began with those who did not turn away,
it filled the hearts of all who humbly asked.
The ways of God can never be defined
nor boxed in by our limited imaginations.
God will always be the still small voice,
God will be in the thunder,
The earthquake, wind, and yes,
The Holy Fire.
For God will always be creating,
God will always be speaking,
always calling, beckoning, whispering,
shouting, reaching out, and
never letting go.
God will always be starting Fires.
My dear Gentle Readers, on this day, as every day, I wish you enough. . .